Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley, photograph by Rowena J Ronson

The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: There is a new test that is about to become available which can detect if you are going to ‘get’ cancer within the next thirteen years. So my question to Double Take readers, and to you Nigel my fellow dialoguer is, would you take the test?

NS: Why would anyone NOT take the test? I just took a test for bowel cancer – and have been told I’m OK. I recently had a check-up for skin cancer (because I’d had a skin cancer a couple of years ago) and have been told I’m OK. I think many medical tests give false positives and false negatives, but somehow they’re still kind of reassuring when they tell you that you are all right. There are, of course, other more complex answers to your question. But what would you do?

RJR: It was a question posed on LBC yesterday but unfortunately I did not get a chance to listen to the call-in, or contribute for that matter. I suspect that awareness and funding play a part. But you are right, I am looking for a dialogue that covers the wider and yet more personal aspects of the discussion. With new knowledge that only 1% of our susceptibility to disease is genetic according to modern epigenetic science, awareness that there is a probability that we might create malignant cancers in the future, could be a good thing for many. I guess it will depend if we are realists or relativists, and whether we feel by living our life differently we can create change. It could be possible that knowing would create a defeatist attitude, depression, and an inability to enjoy life in the now for fear of the future. Or it might be that we will be empowered to do everything we can to take care of our health in the hope that by doing so, we will change our susceptibility and not allow disease in the future to flourish.

NS: Isn’t it the case (statistically) that in the next 13 years we all (or at least the older ones among us) have a very good chance of “getting” cancer. Do we actually need a test to tell us this? I suppose if the test is foolproof, then it would be irresistible to know the result. But, as you seem to begin to suggest, whether we have cancer or not depends to a great extent on how we choose to live: what we eat, what we drink, what stresses we put ourselves under, what environment we live in etc. If a test could tell us that we are definitely going to have cancer, maybe that would make us look at all these things more closely. I wonder if we might benefit from regularly having an official letter through the front door confirming that we are definitely going to die. That might also make us change.

RJR: I couldn’t agree more. I realised, again from listening to LBC over the last few days, that most people do not take care of their health or take responsibility for it. Those that called in and took part in the discussions mostly said they knew their lifestyle was making them ill but had no time to do anything to change it. And those that called to say they were reading What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and taking magnesium to prevent strokes, or meditating and eating healthily, were told that they were in the minority and most people will not go to such great measures. I was quite stunned actually. Because I am so aware of what is healthy, and surround myself by those who also know and actively take care of themselves, I did not realise how the majority consider a healthy lifestyle totally unachievable.

NS: It takes a bit of effort to know what is a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and, I think, even more effort to put that knowledge into practice. I think I know quite a lot about ‘natural health’ but I can’t pretend that I live the healthiest of lives. Like a lot of people, I try to do it – but in many ways fall short. The same goes for exercise – I have always done quite a bit, but I know that I could do a lot more. And then there is mental/spiritual health… and the same shortcomings. We can blame the human world we live in (which conspires to push us into the unhealthiest of diets and lifestyles) but in the end it has to be down to us. Perhaps we need a shock (like the prediction of a future cancer) to make us change?

RJR: I guess the same issues arise in our own awareness and simultaneous denial of global warming. We know we are damaging our environment to irrevocable destruction, but we continue to partake in the same ‘unhealthy’ behaviours…..

NS: Exactly. Will we always behave like this? Or is there something that could make us change? Perhaps that last question is a wrong one. The ‘something’ that could make us change is already here – the reality of our own deterioration and the deterioration of the environment. Do we refuse to look at the situation completely because we are concerned only with ourselves and with the short term? Or are we too lazy to behave differently?

RJR: I wonder if it is the survival part of our brains that keeps us selfish and short-sighted. A paradox perhaps, as it this very aspect of us – our will to survive – that will lead to our destruction. I wish too that it were as simple as the fact that we are all too lazy. We have so much working against us – so many mixed messages. Doctors, for example, do not consider there to be a link between nutrition and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. Are you surprised?

NS: I know that up until relatively recently many doctors still did not recognise the link between what we eat and illness, but surely that has changed now, hasn’t it? I agree about the mixed messages – even on what is good for us to eat. One health guru tells us one thing, and one another. I think it’s still the case that many conventional medics don’t acknowledge the link between stress and cancer – with most resources put into drug research, into “cures for cancer” – when it seems likely that many cancers could be prevented by a stress-free, well-nourished lifestyle. We are conditioned to think there is going to be a fix for everything, rather than think about taking care of ourselves.

RJR: I agree completely and welcome Double Takers to join the discussion.


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It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

This is an article I posted on my own health blog evolve2solve a few months ago and I wanted to share it on Double Take for your thoughts and reflections…..

Rowena J Ronson's Evolve 2 Solve Blog

It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

By Rowena J Ronson, Holistic Physician

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our…

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It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

Rowena J Ronson takes a comprehensive look at cancer, health and the importance of what we can do for ourselves…

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our dignity, our identity, our self-belief and our power, and for many this process is never questioned.

A common and also very limiting mindset is that our health is not in our control. It is not something to take responsibility for or to learn about. The doctors have the answers for us, and who are we to be well informed and query their authority? For many, this paternalistic medical model appeals. It is easier to accept answers than ask questions. It is more comfortable to feel protected from knowledge, than attempt to understand why we are ill and what we can do ourselves, to take responsibility to recover our own health.

Many will never be aware of their prognosis (the likely progression of their disease), by choice, and will prefer to live and die that way, even if the prognosis is positive. And for some, the choice is taken out of their hands, and the doctors will hold back the information, for, in their opinion, the good of the patient and their family. And many will not be aware of their choices of treatment, and how effective conventional treatment is or isn’t for their particular cancer.

Those who do question the system, might do so when first visiting their GP with new symptoms, and being listened to for a few minutes and then prescribed the current first-line medication that seems to fit their symptoms generally enough, in the hope that it will do the trick and sort them out. In an exhausted and exhausting profession, where protocol is followed to the letter, a curious, independent patient is more ‘heartsink’ from the GP’s perspective than we realise. Their response can be defensive, aggressive, judgmental and hostile, leaving the patient angry, unacknowledged, unsupported and dismissed. And the dynamic can get in the way of a swift and appropriate diagnosis.

Many cancer patients will talk of frequent unfulfilling visits to their doctors, repeated prescriptions of toxic, immune-suppressing medication, and a period in a frustrating and worrying no man’s land, until their symptoms worsened enough to produce a recognisable disease picture.

In fact, aren’t we taught to suppress symptoms with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics, rather than question why we have these signs in the first place? When we are in discomfort or pain, our body is attempting to tell us something is wrong. Instead of seeing our symptom as a message from our body that we are out of balance and need attention, we ignore these signs at best; at worst we suppress them with the wrong medicine, and push our imbalance deeper into our system.

Once in the medical system, as a cancer patient, it is all the more challenging to challenge. Many patients report feeling bullied by nurses and doctors if they question their treatment. Most are open to operations, but some query the need or effectiveness of radiotherapy, chemotherapy or ongoing hormone therapy. There does not seem to be an environment where it is safe to question without prejudice or ask for alternatives and choice from someone who really does understand that there are alternatives and patients are entitled to choice.

And way before we become ill, we might think we are following a healthy diet and taking care of ourselves as long as we are eating our ‘five a day’. After all, this is the only guidance we have been given. But because of advertising and conditioning, most of us see sugary food as treats that we deserve rather than the poisons they are. Most of us do not have a clue what a healthy diet consists of and we are completely brainwashed by television and manipulated by supermarkets, on behalf of the food industry, to buy and eat food that has no real goodness at all. The medical profession does not seem to recognise a link between good nutrition and disease prevention, in fact, all research connecting sugar and cancer is ignored, resulting in doctors advising patients already diagnosed with cancer to gain weight by eating sugar.

And sugar is not the only cause for malnutrition and malabsorption of the vital minerals and vitamins we do need to be and stay healthy. Unless we are as mindful as detectives, the unhealthy and often hidden culprits in food, which is labelled to mislead, can and will actually stop us absorbing the goodness from the healthy food we do manage to eat.

Not only do we ignore and suppress symptoms on a physical and physiological level, we also do not listen to ourselves mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Our physical symptoms are often caused by stress and its impact on our mind and hormones, and we then manifest our dis-ease physically in our bodies. But we live in an era where enough is never enough. We push ourselves beyond our limits, to forever achieve more and feel less; to overthink and never just be; to be in touch with everyone else to the detriment of being in touch with ourselves; to never be present, but have a buried past and a fantasy future.

And consequently and inevitably, our dis-ease becomes us. We take it on and we take it in. Our outer struggle internalises and seeks refuge in our inner being and creates temporary equilibrium, a coping mechanism, until it can cope no more. And then it sends us little messages, which we are, unfortunately, taught to ignore.

With all of this in mind, here are some useful guidelines for ways to stay healthy and prevent dis-ease:

For how to nourish yourself
Get to know yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, and understand your needs as an individual and how to take care of yourself so you can stay in balance and healthy (reflective journal writing can help).
Look for natural ways (for example, yoga, homeopathy, massage, nutrition) to take care of yourself and give yourself support you when you are out of balance.
Find a way of relaxing for your mind and body, which you enjoy and value, and practise it regularly in order to de-stress yourself (for example, meditation, Pilates, yoga, walking in nature, being creative). Hormones adrenaline and cortisol, are over stimulated by stress which includes just rushing around and eating on the go.
Find a form of exercise for your chemical balance and your body, which you enjoy and can practise because you want to, (for example, yoga).
Be mindful of the food you eat and drink, and what substances turn on the addictive part of your brain, which makes you use them despite knowing their detrimental effect on your health short-term and long-term (for example, sugar, aspartame, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (recreational, over-the-counter and prescription).

For the support you seek outside of yourself
Find a GP who is open-minded, understands you and your needs and supports you in your choice to question and have an opinion on your health.
Find a holistic practitioner (a homeopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist, herbalist or other alternative medicine therapist who will view your health holistically) with whom you can build a relationship and trust, and who will help you mentally, emotionally and physically as the whole person you are, with natural, non-suppressive remedies and/or approaches.
Avoid taking medications (over-the-counter and prescription) that you have not fully researched, making an informed choice for your health consciously and continuously throughout your life.
Take responsibility for your health on all levels, from the food you eat to the emotions you express and the thoughts you think. Empower yourself and be the aware, conscious being you are. You are the person who knows you best.
Keep an open mind and encourage your intuition to guide you to find the right answers and support for yourself.

For a healthy relationship with yourself
Take care of yourself as you would a family member whom you absolutely love.
Create time for yourself, even if it is only a few minutes a day, as you would do for those you love in your life.
Listen to your body, become its friend, and take note when it talks to you, especially when it says you are out of balance.
Practise turning negative thoughts into positive ones, keep an open heart and develop your intuition.
Find a creative outlet, even if you are totally convinced you are not creative! Creativity in its many forms feeds the soul.

For healthy relationships with others
Choose healthy relationships that will feed you on all levels and keep you met and understood.
Be yourself, be true to yourself and communicate how you are feeling to those you are in close relationship with.
Practise assertiveness – respecting yourself and respecting those you are in relationship with, equally.
Be in the present, with mindfulness of the past, and openness for the future.
Find a level of acceptance for those in your life who are there not by choice, and seek not only to find ways of dissolving resentment, but also not allowing it to build and fester in the first place.

For the bigger picture – you as a spiritual being:
Find your purpose in life or let it find you.
Practise gratitude – daily list all that you are grateful for, especially at times when you might not be able to see the wood for the trees.
Learn from all your experiences in life and put that learning to good use.
Practise hope and faith, whatever that means to you.
Be in nature. Not only does it ground us, it also helps us see the bigger picture that is always there if we step out of ourselves, open our eyes and take the time to see it.